Many women worry…a lot. It seems to be almost second nature to us, because from a young age we are socialized to be aware of the needs of others. Too often this translates into feeling responsible for others. To be fair, there are quite a few things in our lives to be concerned about: money, family (especially children), education, career, etc.
But when does worry go too far? When does it stop being productive in helping us to be conscious of things that deserve our attention and instead turn into something that consumes us?
There’s a very important distinction to be made between worry and anxiety. Worry is a mental process, a way of thinking, whereas anxiety is an emotional and physiological response some individuals experience in relation to a perceived threat. Anxiety can, unfortunately, turn into a full-blown problem that has debilitating effects on one’s life and may require therapy and/or medication to manage effectively. But I’d like to offer some ideas to help us tame worry before it gets out of control. Here are some questions to consider to help your curb your tendency to worry too much.
The first is to ask yourself whose problem it is.
I’ve found that so many women think they are responsible for everyone—their kids, their co-workers, their neighbors, their friends, etc. So much of the time we’re worrying about something that’s not even our business! While it’s admirable to be concerned for the well-being of others who are close to us, it doesn’t do any good for us to take on and worry all the time about the troubles that others face. It’s important to remember that even children, as they age and grow more independent, will eventually have their own lives and make their own choices that you do not need to be overly concerned about or involved in. Many of the clients I’ve seen in my years as a psychotherapist seem to believe that they are responsible for their adult children.
I encourage anyone with this mindset to do your best to raise your kids to have good values, but then let them be adults when the time comes.
Let’s say something is in your domain, it is your deal to worry about. What steps can you take to not let worry get the best of you? I encourage you to use the worry to prompt you to take action. Resist the temptation to sit and stew; instead exert your emotional energy to find a possible solution to the problem.
For example, maybe you’re concerned that your daughter won’t make the soccer team she just tried out for, and you’re scared that her self-esteem will be crushed if she doesn’t make the cut. You can ease your own worry and take action by sitting down with her and discussing how proud you are of her and how much you love her regardless of the outcome. This will help both you and her to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
Let’s say you’re worried about finances (who isn’t?) Recognize that your money problems will not be solved overnight, and then take even just one step today to make progress. Maybe you finally call that debt collector you’ve been avoiding, maybe you take a harder look at your budget and see where you can save, or maybe you start the process of researching how to get a better-paying job. Let the worry guide you to take meaningful action, even if it’s just one thing you do to solve the problem.
Worrying is common to the human experience and is something that women, in particular, are pretty good at. But the truth is that we don’t need to be worrying so much. Stay in your own business, use your feelings to guide you to appropriate action, and then take baby steps to improve whatever it is that you’re stressing about.
Let’s let go of worry and feel freer in our lives!